By Jen Cardone | The Duquesne Duke
After a rich 77-year history of being affiliated with the University, the Duquesne Tamburitzans are now on their own.
The University announced Friday that the Tamburitzans would become an independent, nonprofit organization due to a 40 percent decrease in applicants. With independent status, the Tammies can audition students from other universities.
Paul Stafura, managing director of the Tamburitzans, said the transition will take place over the next two to three years.
“It will increase our applicant pool, the production and the artistry level,” Stafura said. “We want our youth members to be excited about what new things could happen to the Tamburitzans.”
An executive council was created to aid in the transition. Stafura said one of the council’s goals is to provide scholarships and funding for students outside the University. They will also work to find an executive director.
Duquesne will provide financial aid until the Tamburitzans can begin providing for themselves. The aid includes over $4 million in student scholarships and more than $2 million in providing a space for them to rehearse, costumes and instruments, according to Stafura.
“The new corporation has to be recognized by the IRS, and all during that time it’s business as usual,” Stafura said. “People [from other universities] are not able to audition yet until the transition occurs.”
According to Stafura, the new applicants will emerge from colleges and universities within the Pittsburgh area.
Stafura said he foresees only positive outcomes from the switch to an independent group, including the idea that Duquesne wants this to happen and wants them to grow. The decision for the independence was a group effort from their alumni and the administration.
“I have been connected with Duquesne University as a professional for 42 years, and a student for six years,” Stafura said, “All during that time there have been changes at the University and with the Tamburitzans. With every case, those changes opened many doors for new opportunity, and I am looking forward to the future of the Tamburitzans.”
The group’s performers had positive things to say about the split. Junior supply chain management major Allegra Haritan said the transition allows the Tammies to keep moving forward. Freshman business student Kaeli Stolar said that though it’s sad they cannot carry the Duquesne name with them, the group will benefit from having a larger pool of singers, dancers and musicians.
“I know there are mixed feelings about this change, but I feel in the long run that it’s necessary for the group’s survival,” junior physical therapy major Madeleine O’Neil said. “It’s sad that Duquesne University will not keep the legacy of the Tammies as a part of its history forever. But nothing is forever.”
A. Lester Pierce and his St. Thomas Tamburitza Trio from Minnesota founded the troupe in the early 1930s. He expanded the group at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas where they were eventually called the American Tamburitza String Orchestra. In 1937, they came to Pittsburgh and secured an agreement with Duquesne University. Here, they were the Slavonic Tamburitza Orchestra, later to be named the Duquesne University Tamburitzans.
The Tammies’ next show is in Parkersburg, West Virginia on Sept. 20.